Friday, December 31, 2010

change of pace (2)

The Moncton Times is just unspeakably boring today. So, first an announcement, then a true story.

Announcement. On Thursday, Jan.6, I shall meet with the current events group at Moncton Library. There are two meetings and all are welcome to both - discussion begins with a topic; but is then wide open. The first meeting is at 2 pm in the afternoon. The second, for those who can't make it in the day, is the same evening at 7:30 p.m., also at the Moncton Library. I would be delighted to see all those who can make it.

The notice for the group was supposed to run in The Moncton TandT in their Thursday supplement. The library submits its list every month. But The Moncton Times, true to its bush league heritage, usually does not  print the entry about me and the current events group.


Now, the true story.                      Me and the Dook

Last night, I saw the film of a lifetime, "The King's Speech". It was about King George the fifth, whose death in 1936 put his eldest son, Edward, on the throne as Edward VIII. But Edward, an inheritor of the low intelligence that has plagued the British Royal family for generations, was more interested in dressing for social occasions, in partying, and in his adulterous affair with Wallace Simpson. (In fairness, he left two gifts for the men's tailoring world - the Windsor Knot for neckties, and the little straps on the sides of men's vests - for anybody who still wears vests.)

When he learned he could not be crowned king with a twice-divorced woman as his Queen, he resigned the throne. He and his wife became the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, spending the rest of their lives as guests of various extremely rich people, and enjoying a lavish income thanks to the taxpayers of Britain.

The film in a subtle and moving one of how his younger brother, George, overcame a speaking disorder, and became a must loved and effective King George V!. It was a story that carried me back to my high school days. In particular, it took me to that day in grade ten when, failing the year, anyway, I decided to skip school. Little did I know this day was the last time I would be together with the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.

Now, I have an eleven year old daughter who wants to know if I have ever known anyone famous. I have. Really, I have. But it's hard to impress a duaghter for whom greatness began with Hannah Montana. As well, there were only two famous people who came from the very working-class French, English, Italians and Syrians in my end of Montreal. There was Rene Angelil, who would marry Celine Dion. But that was long after we had lived in that dstrict. And there was Tony, the school bully, who became an NHL scout for New York.

Well, I also knew the duce of the Italian Fascist party who sent the gift of a horse to Mussolini. (If you go to the Italian RC church in Montreal's Little Italy, you can see a giant fresco of God in heaven with the saints, and Mussolini among them, sitting on the gift horse.) And I was related to Dr. Decarie, the deputy chief of the Nazi Party of Quebec. But I didn't think my daughter would find those very interesting.

I needed a new world to see real greatness.  I went to that new world when I got promoted to grade ten, ans so had to go to a bigger high school. It was High School of Montreal, the oldest high school in Quebec, going back to the 1840s when it was Royal Grammar School. It was way downtown, an hour ride from the north end flat that was my home. It was across the steet from McGill, The cross street had been the home of Montreal's elite in its glory days. And it and all the streets around it were haunted by the ghosts of the famous.

The high school, itself, had been where Charles Best, the co-discoverer of insulin had been a Chemisry teacher. Christopher Plummer and Oscar Peterson had graduated shortly before I arrived at Monttreal High; and both were already legends in the school. But I knew those were names well below the stature of Hannah Montana.

Quite different from them, I would never become, like them, a legend. Clearly destined for failure as early as my first report card, I took to skipping classes, and to wandering in the ghost filled streets surrounding Montreal High and McGill.  I often passed what had been the home of Dr. Norman Bethune, who had died earlier in China; and who would soon become one of that country's national heroes. I passed the home of  John MacCrae, the man who wrote "In Flander's fields, the poppies blow...."

I would stroll across a vast lawn on the McGill campus to spend hours in the McCord Museum. (The stuffed gorilla and the dinosaur are still there,waiting patiently for my return.) The vast lawn I crossed to get to it was the field on which the modern game of North American football was invented.  I passed the Mansion of Lord Strahcona, builder of the CPR across Canada or, by a minor deviation, the even more magnificent home of Lord Stephen, president of the Bank of Montreal and first president of the CPR. Standing outside, a skinny and unkempt kid far from his element in the north end, I could only stare in awe - and in fear that I would be shooed away. (It was perhaps as well I did not know that I would be frequently invited to both houses for meetings and as a speaker.)

Then, further west on Sherbrooke was the very monied Temple Emmanuel, a splendid and massive work of stone and pillars that was a world away from my little,brick mission church in the north end. Many years later, I would be invited to speak there, too. Once, I chaired a meeting there with Pierre Trudeau, a man I came to like for his shyness and simple manner.

That reminds me of politicians I have known.  Though we rarely saw each other, I developed an instant liking for Trudeau's Solicitor-General, Warren Allmand That liking developed into a profound respect for his work in bringing peace to Ireland and trying to relieve poverty of the world's poorest countries. I was also very friendly with Romeo Leblanc in his years as senator and government-general. Everyone who ever met him liked Romeo.

But none even a governer-general didn't count with an eleven-year-old girl. That's why the film "The King's Speech" fired my memories. There was a famous man...

On one of those many days that I played hookey, I was walking along Sherbrooke St. toward the Ritz-Carlton Hotel. Well before I got there, I recognized him. The immaculateness of his camel hair coat his general dress was so striking I knew it could only be the Duke of Windsor. And the woman beside him with the large and acutely sloped hat was the Duchess.

As I passed him, our glances locked. I found myself drawn into into the saddest eyes I have ever seen, the eyes of a waif lost and despairing.

My daughter was not impressed. "You didn't even say hello?"

Okay. So now I'm down to my last card.

I knew Ian Halperin. I taught him Canadian history. You know. Ian Haperin. He wrote the best-selling biography of Michael Jackson. He knew Michael Jackson well. They were friends.

Take that, Hannah Montana.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

change of pace

I have just seen the movie of a lifetime. "The King's Speech". It's quite a wonderful and gentle story with a hypnotic sense of mood and time and setting. It deal with the period when Eduward stepped down from the throne to become Duke of Windsor, and marry Wally Simpson. It reminded me of the last time the Duke and Duchess and I got together. For real. I think I'll have to write a little story about it.

Newspapers as Pimps

In Montreal, I knew a man who supplied hookers for the Montreal Canadiens and the old Expos. He also dealt in drugs specializing, again, in the pro athlete market. Actually, he was a nice guy. But he was born very poor, and a member of a group heavily discriminated against in Montreal at the time. What the hell. He had to make a living.So he became a pimp and drug dealer. He didn't have much choice. The Moncton Times does have a choice.

In a real newspaper, the news section, especially page one, is for news. It's for real news,  you know - stories about something that has happened, and that people need to know about. For Dec. 29 and 30, The Moncton Times has run front page stories that aren't news at all. Nothing has happened. But there it is - headlines, front page and, today, editorial page.

Monctonians, it seems, are all excited about getting CFL team and building a stadium for it. Yessirree, all you rate payers. You're so excited that, well, The Times just knows you are.

The front page stories are, in fact, pure gush. And the editorial is more of the same. Obviously, somebody has told editors at The Times to do some big time pimping. So, one has to wonder. Who has the muscle to demand that of the Times? And who would be in a position to make money if Monctonians were to come up with the big money built a stadium?

Is there somebody who is standing in the wings ready to buy the Hamilton Tiger-Cats? Is this a somebody who wants rate payers and tax payers to pick up the tab for a football stadium as well as an events centre/hockey arena? And what will be the generous rental terms offered by the city that is already so good as to underwrite to start up costs for a private business?  After all, pro sprorts is a private-for-profit business. So now we're not only subsidizing a college that acts in defiance of human rights laws, but we're also subidizing private business to benefit people who are already rich enough to buy pro teams.

Gee. Who could that be?

Oh, and the inttrepid assignment editor has still not sent anybody to Fredericton to ask about Mr. Irving's remarkable statement that he and his economic summiteers have formed a coalition with the Alward government. I'm surprised that Mr. Alward hasn't made a public statement either affirming or denying that he now heads a coalition government.

(No, I'm not really surprised. I was just being polite.)

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

2010

For a radio show, I have to come up with five topics which I consider major events of the year. It's a tough choice - though I notice that none of the major stories got the press coverage they should have. The big news media  failure, perhaps the fatal one, of 2010 was the dissolving of the press into trivia. War news from Afghanistan is whatever military press officers tell the reporters is news. Wikileaks has degenerated into gossip about the sex life of Assange, with scarcely a word about what Wikileaks have revealed. Other, very big events were ignored altogether.

As a tryout:

1. There is a dangerous decline of faith in political parties, any parties, in Canada and the US. Voter participation in both countries has been dropping for years. Bush was president with only 27% of the eligible voters. Canada's Conservatives were worse. Obama has been a crashing disappointment. Few want an election in Canada because few want any of the current choices.  Both Canada and the US are getting unpleasntly close to Germany about 1930 - in economic crisis, in hysteria over preceived threats, and ripe to try any saviour-demagogue.

2. Canada has obviously become second violin in the US orchestra. As one result, the plunge in Canada's status around the world was evident in our failure to win a seat on the UN Security Countil. The world figures we are a US puppet. And we are. We have, for example, bought a fighter place useless for any Canadian initiative, but one that will define our foreign policy for the next twenty years. It is useless for offshore surveillance, far north patrols, fisheries protection, peacekeeping. In fact, there is only one thing it could be useful for, a major war against an enemy with conventional and very modern forces. Since we are most unnlikely to start such a war, that means we have an airforce that can be used only to fight American wars. And that's it for the next twenty years.

3. Powerful gains by big business in privatizing government. The main attack force has been well financed propaganda groups (like The Fraser Institute and the Atlantic Institute of Marketing Studies) called think thanks, have gained a great deal of influence, thanks to news media that publicize their latest reports as though they were the additions to the tablets that Moses brought down from the mount.  A prime target of these reports has been public education.  The claim is that "scientific" ranking of schools and teachers is possible through standardized tests - administered by private contractors.  Effectively, it puts private contractors in charge of the education system. This is scientific nonsense, and it takes money away from areas of education that need it.  The US public schools have gone far down this road with the result that their international standing, already scandalously low, is now at the bottom of the industrialized world.   Canada, currently offering public education at a very high level by world standards, is actually copying an American disaster. Such pseudo-scientific schemes (like the MacLean's ranking of universities) are not only fraudulent and wasteful, they do real damage to students.

The US has gone a long way to the elimination of democracy and indivicual rights with the Suprerme Court ruling that corporations are persons. Freedom has come to mean not personal freedom, but corporation freedom, including the right to spend all they like on  politicians and lobbying. One result? More Obamas in future - presidents that talk a good line, but act very much like Bush.

New Brunswick has gone even further. The CEO of the largest corporation in the province, Irving Industries, has announced that a group, largely of business leaders, has now formed a coalition with the provincial government. Coalition means they are now part of the government - not in cooperation or in discussion - a part of the elected government.  Except that we didn't elect them. A government like that, one that pushes aside the rights of the individual to mover toward the rights of those belonging to a group, is called corporatism. And corporatism was a basic theory of the Mussolini government in Italy. It's where fascism came from. What we are becoming openly is what we have long been under the covers - government by big business. The difference now is that there is even less pretence that people, as individuals, matter at all.

4. There has been a huge growth in the gap between rich and poor over the past thirty years. The US now has one-third living below the poverty line. Canada is moving in the same direction, if a little more slowly.  The gap has been international as well as national. For example, though it has been under direct American control for close to a century, Haiti has remained the poorest country in the western hemisphere. Now, long after the earthquake, it has received very little aid - and not a cent of the money the US promised. It has received lots of soldiers to point guns at them; but little food or medicine or rebuilding or even cleanup of rubble. That is because there is no intention of rebuilding Haiti. There never was. It is deliberately being kept poor as a source of cheap labour for factory plantations, and urban factories with wages and safety standards so low they have produced some of the worst slums in the world. The misery that we call Haiti was a deliberate creation long before the earthquake.

5. The war on terrorism has killed close to two milliion people, most of them quite innocent, has broken the American economy, and shifted the US and Canada into political hysteria. And it's been a complete failure. A war on terrorism is the fuel that terrorism runs on. War has made terrorism bigger. As it continues, it will destroy our political systems as surely as it is destroying our economies.

The biggest story of the year is that war is no longer practical. Why it is no longer practical. Our problems are not military ones. That should become obvious (to everyone but the most of the Canadian and all of the American news media) in the course of  2011.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Day, 2010 - A Fresh Start

I have (or had) two blogs. This one has been strictly on New Brunswick. It draws a large readership from all over the world. The other was intended for a world audience. Curiously, the one aimed at the world attracts few readers - mostly in the US and Russia (I have no explanation for that - though it is possible that New Brunswick is a microcosm, a bite size, of what is happening in the world.)
I have decided, therefore, to continue with the blog that works, this one. And to start fresh with a general statement of principles that guide what I write.

I am not a liberal or a conservative, not a capitalist or socialist or communist, not a left winger or a right winger. I think anyone who calls himself any of those is a damn fool. Any ideology will work for a time (if it is in the right situation.) Any ideology will fail if the situation changes, and it doesn't. Any ideology will become destructive, even of itself, if those who dominate it became too powerful. American capitalism is destroying itself just as Soviet state capitalism (no, it wasn't communism) destroyed the USSR.

Political democracy works in some situations, not in others. Some day, it may be workable in Afghanistan. But that day is long off. If no longer works in a US (or Canada) because it is controlled by money, and because information essential to the voter is concealed by highly biased news meda. Indeed, one might argue whether that has always been the case. George Bush was the choice of only 27% of the eligible electorate. Stephen Harper is in the same category. (In both countries, voter participation has been dropping for years as popular confidence in democracy withers.)

Any ideology in its pure and unchanging form is poison. We need always to seek a balance of ideas from the various ideologies, changing and regulating the balance as circumstances change.

There are other dangers to being an ideologue. Few people, even the true believers know what the terms liberal, conservative, capitalist, socialist, communist, left winger or right winger mean. All of them have become words that spark reaction rather than meaning. They might as well all call each other simply dirty rats.

The other danger is that the person who looks at the world as an ideologue sees only what his ideology allows him to see. That, combined with the prejudice involed in using emotionally-loaded and misunderstood terms like liberal and conservative, takes up back in a child's comic book world of good guys and bad guys -even evil spririts. Why is there stress in the Middle East? Evil people. The ones that are the evil ones depend on whether you're a left winger or right winger.

That won't work. You have to look and see what is there, all that is there. And you have to realize you are not dealing with good and evil spirits, but with people, people who are more like us than most of us care to admit.

That's why my starting poing is a moral one. I don't mean moral simply in the religious sense (though I am religious, if unconventionally so.) I mean morality as a practical guide to what works and what doesn't work in conducting a human society. There's reason for the remarkably similar views of morality in most major religions. One can credit that insight either to the guidance of a god or to common sense (or you can say that both a god and common sense are the same thing.) The point is that morality works. It is practical. It also reminds us that we are watching real people, not good and evil cartoon figures. Neither Israelis nor Palestinians nor Americans nor Russians are inherently good or evil. They are humans much like each other, differing only in how life and history have shaped them.

With all that in mind, I shall try to write about the seven seas in a fishpond, the world as reflected in the life, politics, and journalism of  New Brunswick.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Something very serious has happened in New Brunswick but nobody cares.

Coalition means two or more items (countries, poliical parties, etc.) joined into one. If, for example, there were to be a coalition of the Liberals and the Conservatives, they would become one party, with each represented in the cabinet and in all party decisions. It does not mean simply cooperation or advising or conusultation. It means both parties have become one and the same. Could someone please explain that to the editors of The Moncton Times and Transcript?

A Mr. Irving wrote a column in that newspaper saying that the economic summit group has formed a coalition with the government of New Brunswick. That means they are now a part of the government. Not advisors. Not cooperators. A coalition sharing power with the government. Has it not occured to anybody that this is against the Canadian constitution and all parliamentary practice?

A couple of years ago, alll the opposition parties in Ottawa were on the edge of forming a coalition. The Moncton Times editorials breathed fire and fury. This was, they said, illegal and unconstitutional. In fact, it was quite legal and consitutional. All involved were political parties with every right to coalesce. The Canadian system of government doesn't even mention parties. Our MPs are elected and, once elected, can join forces with any other elected people they choose to. What they cannot do is coalesce with unelected groups.

But Mr. Irving is speaking for unelected groups. He is claiming that his unelected people have a right to be a part of the government. That is unconstitutional. Mr. Irving has publicly announced his group has the arrogance to claim a right to be a part government this province - though nobody has ever elected them.

This is a very serious challenge to democracy. Why has Mr. Alward made no response? Why hasn't the editorial page raised questions about the legality of this? This looks very much like big business arrogance run wild.

Do people in this province realize the consequences of accepting this statement? Do they undestand it means their votes and choices are now openly irrelevant? Do they realize they their most important right has been taken away from them?

Was Mr.Irving simply using the term loosely? I doubt it. He knows what words mean. And he has a battalion of lawyers who know what they mean. If it were an loose usage, then Mr. Alward should have cleared up the point. He hasn't. New Brunswickers have been told that no matter who they elect, Mr.Irving's summiteers have a right, simply by belonging to his group, to share governing the province.

No province has ever recognized such a right. It goes contrary to  all parliamentary practice. It is an attack on the rights of all the rest of us. It is a fundamental attack on democracy itself. Nobody will speak about it? Then expect to pay one hell of a price.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Dec. 22: Bizarre

The Moncton Times has not followed up yet on the story of Moncton City Council's strange decision to give 750,000 to a church (Baptist) University. Couldn't they at least ask the Baptist leadership? Wouldn't they tell the truth? (Well,maybe not. Baptists are pretty selective about which Biblical instructions get them all excited, and which ones they prefer to ignore.)

Not only has the TandT not mentioned the grant since its first report, it has also done yet another editorial heaping praise on the City Council for its wisdom and foresight. And it gets even crazier.

The editorial writer practically wets his pants over talk of council planning for an improved soccer field to attract a women's world cup chanpionship game and, of course, additional seating for such an event and an events centre and a hockey arena and a Canadian Football League team. Yessirree. Greater Moncton's urban sprawl of 160,000 will be right up there with Montreal and Toronto and even New York. All on borrowed money.

The whole world is in financial crisis. The US economy is still collapsing - and that will certainly affect Canada. But we will borrow - who knows?  Two hundred million for all the above? We will outspend, on a per capita basis just about every city in the world as an entertainment hub for a maritime population whose total is far less than any big city. And there ain't no subway line from Halifax to Moncton.

This is the sense of priorities of a newspaper that has been saying for months we are facing tough times, that some programmes will have to be cut, that we all  have to make sacrifices, that our debt is overwhelming and critical.

And its sense of priorities is to run up even bigger debt for projects of very questionable worth. Montreal had a mayor like that. Jean Drapeau was going to make Montreal the centre of the world. What he left is a stadium good only for scrap, and a debt that took most of a lifetime to pay off.

Somebody has the muscle to tell the newspaper to shut up about the university grant. Somebody has the muscle to get it to praise city council for projects that will benefit mostly the rich.

Oh, and perhaps the editor should get a dictionary, and look up the word coalition. If the economic summiteers have, indeed, formed a coalition with goverment - as Mr. Irving wrote it has - then it has done something unconstitutional. Perhaps the editor could write a word or two explaining that.

He or she might also wonder why it was an unelected business leader and not the elected premier of the province who announced that. And perhaps the assignment editor could spare a reporter to ask Mr. Alward whether we do, indeed, now have a coalition government.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

the Moncton TandT, and the fine art of asking questions

The Moncton Times and Trnscript made a good start on Dec. 18. It printed the story that the Moncton City Council had given $750,000 to a private university - and that it has been giving that university 100,000 a year for the last five years. That's more than a little odd. Taxpayers usually support universities through their federal and provincial governments, not rhough city councils.. Funding any religious institution is unusual at any level of government. Still more unusual is doing it in secret. And, perhaps, most unusual is doing  so for an institution that seems flagrantly in violation of the Charter of Human Rights, because it discriminates against homosexuals. I looked forward to the followup to this story.

The followup happens with the assignment editor says, "Wow! There's something odd going on here; and he assigns a reporter to ask some questions. Who asked for the grant? ( I know the grants began five years ago - but we are still left with the questions.) Who asked for this money? For what purpose? Has it been spent for that purpose? Who originally began these grants? Why? Why did the current city council up the ante to $750,000? Why was this done in secret? Who asked for the extra money? What reason was given? Since the city council has now announced its budget, holding the line on tax increases, what got cut to give $750,000 to a religious institution?

To that, we can perhaps add another question. Who told the assignment editor to forget about it?

I add the last question  not only bcause today's Moncton TandT did not mention the story - but also because it ran a front page story and an editorial of praise for the Moncton city council on its careful use of our money.

Obviously, somebody put the heat on. Who was it? Don't hold your breath waiting for The Moncton Tand T to break this story.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

anonymous (2)

Newpaper people don't have to be told the boss's agenda. Any cub reporter who doesn't catch on early is soon out of a job.
I was a regular on CBC (weekly) for ten years in Montreal. francophone CBC (in the same buidling) was openly separatist, and openly active for the PQ. Anglo CBC's policy was to avoid being contentious. They got nervous even when I did a  history about popular myths of English Quebec (like all the English being rich. In f act, I was very working class anglo - and there were five anglo schools in my district, all within walking distance. Historically, there were a small number of rich anglos, but the majority of them were among the poorest in Quebec.) CBC was already nervous about me. When I became Vice-President of the provincial Anglo rights that took Quebec to the Supreme Court over Bill 101 (and won), I was instantly fired.
So I went to private radio on a daily basis.

Every journalist in Canada, and many non-journalists know about  New Brunswick newspapers. It was a very public matter some years ago when Ottawa dared to question whether one group should control all the newspaper in one province. KC was furious at Ottawa's even asking. He established residence in the Bahamas, making it clear he was doing it to escape paying taxes to Ottawa. That story was very public.

How many articles in any New Brunswick paper have  you ever seen that have criticized a project associated with its owner? Why does AIMS instantly get a column for every "research" report it covers? Why did the editors launch into a shameful series of tirades against public education in the past year? Is it a coincidence this suited AIMS which was, and presumably still is, associated with the newspaper ownership wanted that?
You don't need an agenda. A quiet phone call to the editor is enough to get him enthusiastic about runing one story, and not another - about taking one editorial line and not another. Often, it doesn't take that.
When neo-conservative Jeb Bush came here to speak to a business gathering associated with AIMS to speak as an expert on education, TheTand T made sure it was well covered, and on the first page. They didn't have to be told. I'm sure they didn't even have to tell the reporter not to ask Jeb Bush what made him an authority on education.
When something less than one percent of parents affected by the MHS closing held a protest, it got so much coverage, one would think they represented 99%.
Have you ever seen it give information about the neo-conservative think tanks. It's easy enough to google it. They never have, and they never even call them neo-conservative. Can you imagine they would be so silent if it were a socialist think tank? And can you imagine they would run the latter's "research reports" routinely on their op ed page?
I have never in any publication across Canada seen anything like the gutter editorials by the Tand T on public education. (though The Globe once came close.) The person who wrote that could not survive on any paper in Canada without the approval of the ownership.
Essentially, what the TandT prints is either local boosterism or neo-conservative propaganda. No professional journalist can look at a copy of any issue of the New Brunswick press without recognizing what it is.
Oh, remember the Economic Summit that supposedly represented groups across New Brunswick. The only group I saw quoted was big business. Did you notice any reporting of  what the university presidents thought, for example?

To anonymous commentator

You have suggested my views are subjective. Well, yes. All views are. We're humans. We come that way, and its the only way we come. Even scientists recognize that.
Then you say you doubt anyone one in local employ has the subtlety to carry out the programme I have described in orther to destroy confidence in the schools. What subtlety? The ravinig columns in the Moncton Tand T.?
In any case, there is not need for subtlety. We are dealiing with a large organization., one that I have been following for close to forty years. It's called neo-conservative, and it originated in the US. The leading, and. really, central one is Cato Institute. There are at leads hundreds of branch plants all over the US and Canada. Ours is AIMS, others in Canada are for example, The Frontier Institute, The Fraswr, The Montreal Economic Institute, etc. All produce phony research to encouraging  privatization of just about everything, including schoolls. All enourage lower taxes for the wealthy. Their central proposal is The Project for the New American Century - of which which Jeb Bush was a founder. All are financed by wealthy individuals and corporations.

The Moncton Times is owned by people affilieated with AIMS. AIMS is funded, like the other, by lartge corporations. the Moncton Times publishes reports from AIMS as if they were stone tabletts from a mountain top. It has consistently supported AIMS proposals. It has consistently denigrated public schools and teachers. It has consistently opposed higher taxes for the wealthy and for corporations. The recent economic summit in NB, so amiably covered by the Moncton TandT, was heavily big business and, of course, AIMS. The Moncton Times summed it up with a special column by a Mr. Irving.
Can you connect the dots?
If it's still a problem, go to google.   New-Conservative Think Tnaks.      Cato Insistute.    The Project for the New American Century.
Let me know if you find a single one whose "research" does not attempt to open doors for private business into the sschools. Let me know if you see one aht advises additional government regulation for busiiness - or social programmes (with the exception of baliouts for the American banks and auto industry). Let me know if you see one suggesting help for for the many muddle class Americans who lost their own homes,- unlike the handful of bankers who lost other people's money - and then got bomusses for it.

I ithink there's eveidence there. And I don't see any subtltey - and no need for a local editor to do anything partiuclarly subtle - just to smear what he's told to smear.

The spell checker is a good idea. Doesn't help, though, if you write down the wrong word in the first place. Check your comment toware the end. Hint- it involves the letters f and s.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

What a newspaper should be.

 The first thing to do to improve any newspaper is to put an end to the editorial. There is no reason why a person whose major training in life has been to put news reports in little columns, and think up funky headlines should be be daily commentators on subjects of which they hey are  ignorant. Besides, to do so inevitably means that the handling of the news itself becomes biased. It gives you only the news the owner wants you to see. (For example, how many of you have seen any story in any paper about an African government issuing a warrant for the arrest on a bribery charge of former UN Vice-President Dick Cheney? How many have heard that Cheney's company has offered a payment of some 250 million dollars to settle out of court? How many of you have read in any New Brunswick paper about the New Brunswick priess who was morudered in the course of a slaughter of 200,000 Mayans by the Guatemalan army supplied and directed by the US government?)

The newpapers of Canada and the US began essentially as political propaganda sheets largely financed  by political parties. The founders and long-time publisher of The Globe, for example, was the major leader of the Reform (Liberal) party.
Things changed with the advent of cheaper paper and printing in the t1880a and 90s as cheap newspaper (one or two cents) led to a huge and profitable rise in readership. This made them attractive to  private business for the profit - and for the enormous influence and power of owning the only major source of news. So it was that William Randolph Hearst could (rightly) claim credit for starting the Spanish-American War. Lord Beaverbrook us his newspaper to built his political prominence, a move cut off only because the wily Lloyd George duped him into accepting a title - thus condemning him to the irrelevance of being a member of The House of Lords.

Just as the Chinese government uses the New China News Agency to keep pople ignorant of what it is doing, so private business leaders, especially in North America, use their owndership not to inform readers, but to keep them in the dark. That's why so much reporting is either absent or misleading. Theat's why opinion columns stay away from opinions offensive to the owners.
That's why The Moncton Times wrote a series of such disgusting, ranting columns about New Brunswick public schools and teachers. It was a deliberate attempt to stir up doubts and even fears about the public schools, thereby making it easier for private business to take them over. (And it has largely worked. Private business now effectively controls much of the education system through its other propagnda group, The Atlantic Intitute of Marketing Studies.
So what would a good newspaper do?
1. Restrict editors to deciding the layout of the newspaper. That is something they know how to do.
2. Hire people with advanced training and experience in education to make the newspaper an effective means of educating people about their world.
3. This would mean have a wide range of opinion commentaries froom people of very differring views all over the world. We need to see what the rest of the world thinks, and to understand why it thinks that way. Generally, North Americans are crashingly ignorant of the rest of the world.
4. We need to get stories by press services all over the world, and from a range of biases. The reality is that there is no absolute and scientific truth in reporting. A reporter might see Omar Khadr as a beast deserving of assassination (as  Canadian political science prof just did. An ordinary reader might respond as a local woman did - Think of othe suffering, she wrote, inflicted on the family of the soldier he allegedly killed. Khadr deserves no compassion. An Afghanit reporter might see it differently, and remind us of the suffering of tems of thousands of widows, orphans, parents - quite inoccent people - who have suffered because of US and NATO invaders. We need both sides of the truth.
5. A good paper should feature at least a weekly column on  how to understand the news - how we can decide what news is trtustworthy and why. Most people have no understanding whatever of that.

It won't happen, of course. No owner of anewspaper would allow that to happen. From it's origins, the newspaper has been a propaganda sheet in the service of its owners. They are not going to change. The result is that they will continue to drive readers off to to the trivial world of supermake tabs And to send those readers they keep into the hysteria we are watchinig in the US (and soon, here), an hysteria that makes them easy tools for manipulation.

So it's up to us. We have to learn what to believe and what to question. And we don't have much time in this world that a lying press has done so much to make so dangerous.

PS  Guess who wrote all those vicious and ignorant columns on New Brunswick education. After reading yesterday's "To the Contrary", I would be prepared to venture a guess.

PPS As to the bizarre and almost criminal decision of Moncton City Council to give a grant to a  private undersity, we have to ask the big question. Who was putting the heat on them to do something so stupid?

Friday, December 17, 2010

Dec. 17: A Day of grubbier than usual reporting and commentary

Norbert Cunningham has a stunning column that displays most of what's wrong with newspapers in general and the Moncton TandT in particular.It's about Bill C36 in Ottawa, of which almost no-one knows anything because the  news media have reported almost nothing. That's what Norbert says. Then he writes the first half of his column foaming at the mouth about people who are protesting the bill.

Hey, Norbert, shouldn't you tell us first what the bill is about? Then discuss it?

He says the protesterswho e mailed him about it from across Canada are granola lovers and members of t he unthinkning Canadian left. Whoa, baby. Can you see around corners Norbert? You're talking about people  you don't know,never will know, and have never even seen at a distance in a fog. Do you know what left means? Or is it just a blanket description of people who don't agree with you?

Then he says they are protesting to protect private business interests. What? Unthinking leftists are protesting to protect private business? Wanna run through that bit again, baby? Wow! TI mean...if leftists are fighting to protect private business, that would sure prove they're really unthinking.

Then he tells us only  little bits about the bill, and only to show at length that the protesters are wrong. But this comes after admitting earlier that he has been unable  to learn anything substantial about the bill.

This "To the Contrary" column is so contrary, it's contrary to itself.

He also says nobody from Atlantic Canada  has protested. Of course. People from Atlantic Canada don't protest. Instead, they report anybody who does to the proper authorities.

Then there's front page story that NB studenta have made literacy gains. But here is nothing in the story that tells us anything. Who administered the tests? Was it anybody who stood to gain from a good result? Were the tests of last year identical to those of this year? If not, how can they be compared? What is the margin of error in the statistics? Is this a product of standardized testing? If so, how come the US, which has used standardized testing for over two generations, has dropped like a rock in literacy results to become the educational toilet of the industrial world? If there is a real gain, what does it mean? After all, this is not a horse race in which the horse that wins by a nose is a winner;and the one that comes a nose behind is dog meat. One can easily get statistical differences that don't really mean anything.

If this was a real gain, then it must have been due to good work by the teachers. So, where is the editorial congratulating them? Isn't this the paper which has been telling us for a year that the teachers are incompetent asses? Shouldn't it now apologize? It would go nicely with an apology to the district 2 superintendant and the Disrtrict 2 Education Council for telling lies about their reponsibility for the neglect of Moncton High School.

I don't know if New Brunswick newspapers are the worst in Canada. Frankly, the difference between the best and the worst in Canada is not alll that great. So what should a newspaper be like?

We'll take a shot at that tomorrow.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

It's Not the Fault of the Moncton Times and Transcript

Most news media lie or, at least, mislead a good deal of the time. They're perhaps at their worst in war reporting, an area that has been a minefield of lies and propaganda ever since the development of the mass circulation newspaper in the 1880's. In the 1890s, British investors wanted a war with the Dutch colonies now called South Africe - so they could get their hands on all that gold and diamonds. The press cooperated all the way. It painted the Boers as racist (this from a Britain that was as racist as any in the world at the time). and provocative. Then, when war began, it searched desperately for good news and a hero to keep the public behind the war.

The hero turned out to be an obscure British colonel who got bottled up for six months in an even more obscure town by Boer troops. His "British" grit and courage were praised in every issue. When a British army finally got through to raise the siege, all Britain went mad in a frenzy of celebration. Mafeking had been relieved. The hero of the hour was Colonel Baden-Powell.

The British military brass wasn't as enthusiastic. Baden-Powell wasn't suppposed to be in Mafeking. There was no point to defending it. And the only reason he lasted six months was because the Boer leader was even more imcompetent than he was. In the eyes of the general staff, that fool Baden-Powell had tied up the whole British army for six months trying to save him from his own idiocy. Some wanted him court-martialled.

But they couldn't. He was a hero, thanks to the press. So they had to promote him to general, instead. Yes, all you Boy Scouts. That's the truth about Baden-Powell.

The Moncton Times - Dec. 16, section C headline. "Canada pleased with Obama surge" This refers to the US increase of troops in Afghanistan. But the story is not really about Canada or Obama. In fact, neither Canadians nor Americans are pleased about the Afghanistan war. Nor should they be.

Afghanistan is a brutal war that has destroyed at least tens of thousands of people, and created tens of thousands more of widows and orphans and cripples, elderly, children and babies who in no way deserved this. Nor is it at all clear what would be won with a military victory since the only people of that country on the US side are corrupt war lords and drug dealers.

The "Canada pleased" bit means Canadian military officers and diplomats gave the reporter some proapaganda handouts saying they were pleased. It doesn't mean that even the generals are pleased. It just means this is what they want us to believe.

Nor would any war correspondent tell the truth even if he/she saw it. Most war correspondents have always been propagandists (liars) for the government and the gnenerals. "Embedding" them with the troops just tightens the screws by putting them officially under military command, and placing them under social pressure from the rest of the army. There's a good history of this, a book called "The First Casualty".

And, well, it's partly the fault of The Moncton Times and Transcript - and of most other papers in North America. They publish news from obviously biased news agencies such as Postmedia. (Significantly, the North American press has largely censored itself so it is not telling us much about the really bad parts of Wikileaks. The press has long since lost the habit of even trying to tell the truth.)

The best thing to do is to scan the web for papers and agencies like Britain's The Manchester Guardian or The Independent, Israel's El Haaretz, the Arab world's Al Jazeera....One can't guarantee honest reporting from any one source - but those four beat Postmedia, The Globe, and just about anything in North America by a mile.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Dec. 10: The Idiocy goes on.

Now the editor wants the city of Moncton to put money into practical projects like a downtown events centre. This "could be done without breaking the bank". Is that writer for real? This events centre/hockey rink would have meant borrowing 84 million a year ago. More now. And it would not revive downtown. It if could cause any such revival, the present hockey arena/events centre would be surrounded with boutiques instead of grass and buttercups.

The reason downtowns died is because of our reliance on automobiles. That really grew with post war prosperity - and shopping malls came because of  the cars. Shopping malls work because they're designed for cars. If we want to revive downtown, we have to get rfid of the cars that destroyed them - not briing in even more cars with a centre and a huge parking lot. Obviously, the writer has not thought in any informed way about what reviving a downtown means. Moncton can  have a lively downtown or it can encourage more car use. It can't do both. A cheap, relable (and visible) public transportation system would be a big step in the right direction.

Moncton council should also have a list of priorities. We have a city with beautiful parks - nost of them accessible to most people only by car. Few children own cars. And if they did, there wouldn't be enough parking space for  them. Where are all the safe and enclosed play areas that local children can safely walk to?

Moncton is a city whose idea of intellectual activity is reading tabs at the supermarket checkout. Adult literacy is poor. Discussion of issues and ideas almost never happens. Opportunities to see live theatre of any merit, and live music composed before 2009 are rare. If the city fails its adults in these respects, it's even worse in any intellectual stimulation for children. There are plenty of children with first rate brains in this city. It's not the schools that fail them. It's the atmosphere of the whole city. And City Council could do something about that.  A city council is supposed to set priorities for all the people, not just for those who own hotels, restaurants and hockey teams.

Serving the whole range of needs of people is practical. And it will "move Moncton ahead" a lot faster than a new hockey rink will.

Below on the edutorial page is a column by the Canadian Taxation Foundation. I think it misunderstands the statements made at the "economic summit" initiated by Don Drummond of the TD bank. They did not recommend raising taxes, at least, not on anybody who counts. Of all those business execs and university presidents and AIMS "researchers", nobody suggested raising taxes on either corporations or wealthy individuals. But, hey, somebody has to pay for that new hockey rink. The HST is ipopular with the rich precisely because it hits the average tax payer and the poor so much harder than it hits the rich.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Dec. 14: Two misses and two hits on the TandT editorial page.

There were two, excellent columns on the editorial page of The Moncton Times and Transcript today. Unfortunately, neither of them was the editorial.

A good one was by Alec Bruce on education. It calls for a little bit of close reading and a little bit of thought. But the effort pays off in a big way. The other was by Catherine Ford of Troymedia. It was about how petty and provincial Canada has become, and how, for national survival, we need more power for the federal gtovernment in dealing with business. It's a very sensible article, and an important one for our economic future. I guess that's why it wasn't run as an editorial.

The editorial was a defence of the Moncton Council's decision to go ahead on a proposal to bankroll another CFL game in the coming year. (You remember council. They're the ones who thought it was a great idea to run up  federal, provincial and municipal debts of eighty-four million to build a hockey rink as Moncton's top priority.) The editor defends the council's position regarding the CFL on the gounds that it broke even on this year's game.
1. We have never seen a full accounting of what the benefits were. Nor can we trust the figures that will be given on the real costs and real gains. All we have seen are vague statements, including some for which there cannot possibly be any data. Who could possibly have accurate data on exactly what hamburger purchases can be directrly attributed to the game. In any case, risking taxpayers' money to barely beak even (probably on cooked figures) is  scarcely be a sound reason for doing it again. No business would ever operate on that principle.
Oh, thinking of whatever figures they come  up with - how do we measure the cost of the time council put into making a couple of big days for business? How does one measure the cost of time lost when it should have been devoted to looking at real priorities for Monton?
2. With world economies so fragile, no economist would dare to predict what conditions will be by next fall. It is quite possible that organizers will not find 20,000 bottoms wearing pockets deep enough to pay for tickets, hotel rooms, meals, etc. American visitors, for example, may be sharply down because of a falling dollar. Then there's the inevitable effect of a failing American economy on ours. This time, there is a strong chance  the taxpayers will be stuck with the bill.
3. A council, like any government should certainly do what it can to create a healthy climate for business. But it should not be bankrolling a business of any sort. And it should not be underwriting a purely business risk with taxpayers' money. (I know it often happens that governments do exactly that. But it's a prime cause of corruption, an offence to taxpayers and, for that matter, an offence the very principles of capitalism, itself. What it comes to is a kind of socialism to benefit business rather than us.) I'm sure the TandT would share my views on this subject. Maybe not. I sometimes  get the impression they want us to believe in capitalism while their friends make money out of business socialism.)
4. The shot at the CBC was deserved - because the CBC was telling the truth -and you're not allowed to tell the truth in the New Brunswick news media. Most of the news media available to Moncton in print, on radio, and TV are beneath any journalistic standards (except those to be found on the other private media outlets across North America.) The CBC stands out above them - and light years beyond The Moncton TandT. And if the editor really thinks that Moncton has an audience only suited to garbage media, that might be a hint to Moncton council and the New Brunswick government to rethink their priorities.
5. A city council's business is to serve ALL the people of the community, not just to boost local business or the city's image. Nobody beyond the New Brunswick border gets all excited about a CFL game in some place called Moncton -just as few in the whole world care about the Moncton Wildcats, even if they do get enthroned in an eighty four million dollar stadium. As things stand, the City Council and the provincial government seem to think of citizens' needs in the same way emperors did in the last years of Rome. (No bread, though. Just circuses.) When the city bankrolls a business venture, it does so at great risk (see point 2 above); and it endangers priorities that the council should set but, apparently, never has.

It's not just an offensive article in its malice to CBC and its ignorance of news media standards. After all, we're used to that from its editorials on education.  But this one seems to stand apart even from the petty and malicious ones by its sheer dumbness.
The other stinker was the editorial cartoon. It's too bad. The cartoonist has considerable graphic skill. He could be one of the good ones. The problem is that every cartoon is a predictable sloshy kissup for the owners and editorial staff. What could be a career leading to work for a real newspaper is not likely to happen. A real editorial cartoonist, and I have known several top ones, has a hate for everybody and will take on anybody. Bootlickers stay in the bush leagues.

P.S.  Harper's intention is not to cut the CBC budget. It's to close it down, perhaps to sell it to private owners so we can get more infomercials and half-wit phone-ins.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

In New Brunswck, it's a long, long time from Nov. 11 to Dec.11

One month ago, to the day, New Brunswickers observed a day of remembering those who died for us, and why they died. There was a two minute silence devoted to remembering who they were, and what they were fighting. But a month is a long time in New Brunswick. Yesterday, a newspaper column by a leading industrialist from this province advocated a system of government.  It would be almost identical to the fascism that some 40,000 died to keep away from our country and our homes.democracy - and from us who have lived wirth freedom and individual rights, thanks to that enormous sacrifice.

I don't believe the business leader was concciously suggesting a fascist system. I'm not sure he even  knows what it means. In that respect, I am reminded of Bertie, a nice kid, but mentally slow. Thought nine years older than me, he was about my mental age when I knew him .I was seven at the time. But he often came to play with me because we liked the same thngs. He was a big kid. Once, he scattered a whole gang of kids that had jumped me. Bertie was a good friend.

There was a war on. When I asked him to explain it, he would just shrug his shoulders and say, "I dunno. Don't bother me none. Hey! Let's take your coaster out."

One day he appeared in a brown jacket with a kilt and a nifty cap, and boots that clicked when he walked. He was proud and pleased. He had stolen his brother's draft papers and joined the army. They told him he was going to fight fash...something.  "What's a fash?" I asked.

"I dunno. Here, let's look at this new comic book I got. You can read it to me."

 Bertie was in northern Germany when he was still just sixteen. He never saw seventeen.

I"m sure all those summiteers - the business leaders, and university presidents, and AIMS staff, and Pemier Alward - all of of them observed the November 11 ceremonies for those died for us. I'm sure all of them observed the two minutes of silence. But what did they think of in that two minutes? Obviously, they were not thinking of why so many died. Obviously, the business leaders, university presidents, AIMS staff and Premier Alward don't know why.

This is the province where leaders of alll sorts insist that children must listen to O Canada until they fossilize. Apparently, it makes them patriotic. I have a better idea. Let's have a special programme for business people, university presidents, AIMS staff, politicians, and assorted "community groups" to teach them some of the basics of what Canada is about, and why so many have died for it.

And let's find a smart seven year old who can read it to our journalists.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Whhere the hell are the universities and churches

An economic summit that was pretty much a text book example of fascism at work (check any dictionary) has been held in New Brunswick. University Presidents attended as representatives of the academic world. They know, I should hope, what corporatism and fascism mean. What the hell were they doing in lending credibility to such a meeting?

Why have we heard nothing from all those political scientists and historians treaching in our universities?

I swear, New Brunswick, especially Moncton, has the most invisible universities I have ever encountered. Mind you, most academics across North America avoid the great unwashed - unless they are posing in gowns to have their pictures taken. New Burnswick is just a little worse than average.
For example, we are being pushed into the biggest putlic education changes in centuries. Most professors of education know these changes are thoroughly unscientific and damaging. But not a bloody word out of any of them.

As for clergy,they avoid any issue in the real world like the plague - especially if it involves big business. As as result, they are so irrelevant the economic summiteers didn't even bother to invite a church representative..

The government has agreed to become part of a coalition with them? Hasn't anyone explained to Mr. Alward that governments are elected by us to govern us, not to suck up to special interest groups who will jointly govern us?

I knew before I moved here that the news media were a write-off. I didn't expect the universities and the churches and the politicians to be such a limp collection of dead weeds.

Dec. 10, 2010 Arrogance, etc. (2)

Do you think the post on Mr.Irving's column in The Moncton Times and Tribune was exatterated? Just open any dictionary or goggle "definition of corporatism" and "definition of faxcism". Write to the editor of TheMoncton Tand T  to explain those words to him. Seeif your letter gets published.

The so-called economic summit did not recognize New Brunswickers as individuals. Instead, it recognized them as members of interest groups. Both the government and the news media played along with it. It does not seemm to have occured to either that this is the opposite of democracy and individual rights.

New Brunswickers, like too many Canadians in general and far, far too many Americans are swimming in very dangerous waters. It is no exaggeration to say that corporatism and fascism are the most serious threats to our existence as democracies.

Dec. 11, 2010: Arrogance, Self-interest and Contempt for Democracy

It's all on p. 9, the op ed page of The Moncton Times. It's a column by Mr. Irving (call me Jim) of J.D.Irving Limited.

Arrogance? Just tead it. See what you would call it. Government is quite wrong in all its policies. Don't listen to it. Listen to a businessman like Mr. Jim Irving. This is a part of the arrogance of Mr. Irving. We ordinary people are too stupid to elect the right people to represent us. We have chosen all wrong; all these years. He supplies example of our misguidedness. So listen up. Mr. Irving will tell us what we should do. (As if that weren't what the Mr. Irvings, other corporate leaders, and their cheerleading  press have been doing throughout the history of this province.)

Self-interest? The mesage is quite clear. We're in fiancncial trouble; but we mustn't  raise taxes or rates on important things - which means anything that might make big business pay more for, oh, things  like natural gas, electricity or lumbering.

Oddly, he doesn't share his wisdom on how we're going to pay down a debt if we don't tax the areas where wealth is. But if we don't go there, we have only two, other choices. One - tax the poor and the middle class. (We can also  used disguised taxation against them -  lotteries and school fees, for example.)  Two -  we can cut social services like public schools, hospitals. Just don't raise taxes on people with money in this province which has one of the greatest gaps between rich and poor in Canada.

Contempt for democracy? See my paragraph on arrogance. Add this to it. He speaks approvingly of the Economic Summit. He speaks of it as a coalition of government, community groups, and academia. (He doesn't mention big business - which shows a rare streak of modesty since the idea seems to have begun with big business, of which, I have heard, Mr. Irving is a part.

Anyway, this interest-group approach to government is not new. It attained a certain popularity in Italy in the 1920s, where it was symbolized by an axe encircled by rods, all bound together in a symbol called  "fasces". That was the emblem of Il Duce, Mussolini and the fascist movement in Italy. The basic idea was that democratic politics won't work because the voters are too stupid. (Read the column again with this in mind.)

As I look at New Brunswick governments, I can understand someone holding such a view.. The trouble is, though, that democracy, for all its faults, has worked a hell of a lot better than fascism. (Oh, I don't accuse Mr. Irving of fascism. I doubt whether he even knows what it means. I accuse him of self-interest to the neglect of showing any significant concern for the people of New Brunswick.He has stumbled into fascist ideas, but probably because he doesn't know any better.)

Readers may detect in the column a writing style one would expect of a hack writer of propaganda. That requires a certain amount of skill. In fairness, I have to say I am impressed that Mr. Irving can write in that style.

What will the Alward government do? It will kiss up, of course. You can call the Liberals and Conservatives any names you like - just so long as you're rich enough.

By the way, Mr. Irving makes no mention of whether he has ever received any help from government and those oh-so-stupid taspaers of this province. Watch to see whether a Moncton TandT editorial appears on this subject to remind Mr. Irving of what he owes us. Better make a sandwich and ice a few cases of beer first, though. . It may be quite a wait.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Good

By a happy coincidence, Norbert Cunningham and Alec Bruce had closely related columns; and one right next to the other. Bruce dealt with the baby boomers, Cunningham with the brainlessness of TV.

The coincidence? Boomers were the first TV generation.

Before TV, people had to read or listen to radio for home entertainment. Both reading and listening required imagination, close attention, and intellectual exercise. In both cases, one had to imagine scenes just from words, to imagine the face and actions of the detective in the radio play, to imagine the anguished face of the heroine in a story. People were involved emotionally and intellectually with radio and print. I can still vividly recall scenes from radio plays I heard as a child. I can even remember some of t he commercial jingles. But remember little of the TV I've seen since then.

TV is passive. The viewer needs no imagination, no brain. One just sits there watching colours and shapes move. (That passive watching is the reason why camera angles on TV change so often., to keep the viewer comatose.) Even the news on TV becomes mindless entertainment. We have also developed the ultimate dumber-down, the infomercials, watched by millions for hours at a time.

The living room, once the place where people gathered to talk and , in the process, learn social and intellectual skills, is now focussed oon the TV set. Everybody is blanked out. Everybody is watching the shapes and the colours change ever twenty seconds or so. TV makes so little demand on us that some experts claim we burn more calories while sleeping than we do watching TV.

Certainly, TV the dead zone that Cunningham describes has been a major factor in producing the self-absorbed poorly informed, easiy manipulated and barely literate generation that Alec Bruce describes, the baby boomers.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Dec. 9, 2010 : A Doublerheader for The Moncton Times (2)

The Atlantic Institute of Market Studies, with the help of all the Uriah Heeps of The Moncton Times have been pushing hard for educational changes in New Brunswick that would be the biggest changes in the history of public education, a history that goes back for centuries. The change begins with standardized testing and public school ranking. The long term objective is give big business effective control of education, and to convert it to a matter of private profit.

The idea comes from the United States, more particularly from American big business and from ideologues like Jeb Bush. It has spread rapidly and widely in the US for almost two generations of students. Yesterday, the UN published its quite respected ratings of schools around the world.

Canada's system (the one The Moncton Times has so much contempt for) came out among the best. It always has. The US systemscame out among the worst. They always have. The difference is that it has actually become even worse since the spread of standardized testing and public school ranking. It has, most recently, dropped from 18th in the world to something like 25th. We are copying one of the lowest ranked education systems in the world. And The Moncton Times has been a cheerleader for for this greed-motivated scheme, and a propaganda front for the so-called "research" of AIMS and its so-called "fellows".

Yesterday, The Moncton Times, the great supporter of standardized testing, gave the briefest and sketchiest possible report possible of the UN findings.  It was also so badly written as to be almost incomprehensible. It completely omitted any reference to the American result, and what that tells us about standardized testing and school ranking.

The UN ratings contradict every editorial on education that has appeared in The Moncton Times in recent years. I wondered how the editorial writer would respond to this. Now we know. There was no response.

I'd  like to place an ad in the Lost column of TandT want ads.  Lost: Journalistic integrity. Last seen just before crossing border into New Brunswick.

Dec. 9, 2010: A Doubleheader for The Moncton Times and Tribune.(1)

Today, the Moncton Times published a letter from Harry Doyle, chairman of the education committee for our school district.  It is a clear, well-reasoned, and well written letter explaining that his committee had for years made it clear to the ministers of education that major repair was top priority for Moncton High School.  This is the school that had to be closed some weeks ago as a matter of public safety.

The committee could, and did, recommend repairs on the school as a first priority. It did so year after year. But only the government could allot the money and the authority to do the job. And none of the governments did. At last, the superintendant ordered the closing of  the school as both a health and a safety risk.

Mr. Doyle's letter drew a response in the form of an editorial. And so it should have. The editorials of The Monctoon Times have been pouring victriolic, accusatory, demeaning, and simply wrong blame on teachers, administrators and the education committee for at least a year. Mr. Doyle's letter showed quite convincingly that The Moncton Times was not only wrong, but quite ignorant of who is responsible for making school repairs possible.  The editor had to respond to that letter: and should have responded with a shame-faced apology, and perhaps even a letter of resignation.

But, no. This is The Moncton Times and Transcript. There is no apology, simply a thanks to Mr. Doyle for "clearing the air". Even a bad newspaper would have apologized for its behaviour, its reporting and it editorials over the past year.

Even a bad newspaper would have taken the trouble to check procedures for financiing and prioritizing school repairs. A simple call to the ministry of education would do that. For that matter, on even a bad newspaper,  somebody on staff would have the brains to realize that a regional school committee would not have the power to order millions of dollars of construction all on its own.

Apparently, The Moncton Times cannot rank even as a good bad newspaper.

Why has the The Moncton Times and Transcript sone such a smear job on public education for the past year and more? That is almost certainly because its owners want it to. (I have never seen a newspaper editorial in any papterl that was critical of the newspaper's owndership; and  The Monncton Times is a kissup even by normal newspaper standards).

Why would the owners want a smear job on public education? Gee. I dunno. Could there be a connection with the Atlantic Institute of Market Studies?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Dec. 8, 2010 The Decision of The Moncton Times

Hats off to the Moncton Times. It has discovered a new way to avoid telling the truth without actually  lying. And it's so siimple, it amounts to pure genius.
1. Instead or taking an intelligible (even if biased) story from a news service, it assigned a staff reporter to write a story sp canfusing that few will be able to make any sense out of it.. Then they  hide it at the bottom of p. 3 under a headline that says New Burnswick's education ranking rose. But it has a sub heading that says NB scores fell. So things got better; but they got worse when they got better. Right. Clear as a bell.

2.The story didn't bother to mention that New Brunswick, with Canada as a whole, was rated, once again, among the best education systems in the world.

3. There is a difference between a ranking and a rating. Obviously, nobody at The Moncton Times and Tribune knows that, not even the editors. The UN makes it clear there is a difference. It also makes it clear that ratings do not measure the qualities of teachers or of individual schools. The Times doesn't even bother to mention that, either - though it has frequentlyy written foaming at the mouth editorials that insist that students tests DO measure teachers and schools..

4. As always, the  newspaper does not know there is a difference between a school ranking and a horse race. In a  horse race, the one that finishes, say) in 19 seconds is the winner,even  if all the other nine finish within half a second of the first horse. But if one person scores 98 n a test, and the next nine all come between 98 and 95 or even a bit less, there is no significant difference. I wish the news media world would learn that.

5. There is no mention of the American ratings. That is a stronge omission because we are in the process of imposing the American system of standardized testing and ranking on New Brunswick schools. I haven't yet seen the official report for the UN rating of American schools; but I know they are close to the bottom of the pile in something like 28th place. And 28th place is not just a few percentt behind Canada in 10th place. The gap is huge with the US far behind even countries that we think of as primitive. But The Moncton times pushing for adoption of the American system. Maybe that has something to do with AIMS,and with the ownership of The Times. Nah. Nonewspaper would be so unethical as that. Maybe.

6. There was no editorial on the subject on Dec. 8.  But maybe the editorial writer is just stocking up on foam for Dec. 9.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Dec. 8, 2010 - a testing day for the moncton times and tribune

The UN has released its latest assessment of education systems around the world. Many news media are calling it as a proud day for Canada which retains its spot among the world's best education systems. But The Moncton Times likes to get its news from Postmedia, the very successful rebirth of CanWest - and an even bigger kissup to big business than the Montreal Times is. (Really.) Canwest headed it as a story of the decline of Canadian education.

How will The Moncton Times report it on Dec. 8? Will the editor treat it as bad news (the way he treated the news of a New Brunswick school superintendant winniing a prestigious award? Or the story of New Brunswick having the best high school completion rate in Canada, which the editor foamed at the mouth as a disgraceful showing?)

What has really happened is this.

The quality and rating of Canadian public education has been pretty stable, up close to the best in the world, since these UN studies began. Recently, there have been great improvments to public education in countries like China. We have not become worse. We are, in fact, getting better - but some countries are getting better faster - as China is. In any case, the statistical differences between the top countries (like Canada) are not great. So, really, nothing of great significance has happend.

But The Moncton Times has clearly signed on with corporate New Brunswick and with Atlantic Institute of Market Stuides to discredit and defame our public schools. So will it report our position among the best in the world? Or will they Postmedia it as a bad sign? Or will they ignore it?

There's a fourth choice. They could hide it under the news thatNew Brunwick has risen slightly in the Canadian stats for reading levels. They could use that as praise for the work of standardized testing and school rankings. They could do that and be honest - if only becuase editors and reporters at The Moncton Times are too ignorant of education and of statistics to realize it's not true.

The rise is too small to indicate any such thing -and it could as well be due to a drop of reading skills in Nova Scotia and PEI, the only provinces that NB beats - and that not by much.

In other words, nothing really has changed. I can however, suggest things you will lnot see in The Moncton Times on Dec. 8.

1. It will not report that UN reserachers agree and have announced that standardized tests are useless as tools to rate either teachers or schools. All they test and rank is the children.
2. It almost certainly will not report that the US, the homeland of standardized testing and public school ranking, has dropped catastrophically from its already terrible position as number 18 to something around 25th in the world. This is the country that has been using standardized testing and ranking on a very wide scale for over a generation.AIMS wants us, we of the top ten education systems in the world, to copy the education system of the country that has the education system rated the worst  in the developed world. So The Times won't mention that.
3. It will not mention that the woman appointed by George Bush to spread standardized testing, ranking and their bastard child - charter schools - the woman who was one of the very few education scholars to support standardized testing - has recently publicly admitted it does not work In fact, she says it has been a disaster for US education. (Of course, The Times has shown us what a great success it is. Remember their gushing report on the visit to Moncton of that great expert on education - Jeb Bush?

The Moncton Times, as I write, will be going to press. It had two choices. Which did it choose? Will it lie (either deliberately or out of ignorance)?  Or will is skip the story? Put your money down, folks.

The reality of what's going on is that corporate New Burnswick wants your children so it can put them on the market for its profit. That's what AIMS is about. That's what the big corporations are about. That's what the Liberals and Conservatives are about. That's what The Moncton Times and Tribune is about.

Meanwhile, one of the first budget cuts the Alward government has announced is the immediate cut to an already hopelessly underfunded education system. As it has been since the days of the timber trade, politics and your lives and your children are controlled by the province's robber barons.

And, as always in this province, the news media cover for the robber barons.

Wake up, New Brunswick. A centurty and a half of backing away from bullies has not done you any good.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Death of Credibility at The Moncton Times

Today, Saturday, Dec. 4, /the Moncton Times published the most important column it has ever published- not just in what the column said, but in the implications of what it said. The Moncton Times is imcompetent and it lies. It's all on the op ed page (opposite the editorial page in a guest column by Karen Branscombe, Superintendant of District 2 schools.

Both the Superintendant of District 2 and the District Education Council, (both of whom has been publicly insulted and virtually spat on by The Moncton Times in past months) had made Moncton High their top priority for essential repairs for several years. But they could not authorize anything without money. And governments have refused to make that money available.

In another newspaper, even one almost as low in the gutter as The Moncton Times and Tribune, reporters would have made enquiries of politicians, (with an unusually large group of Ministers of Education to draw on).  If it did not do that, if it launched such comtemptible  attacks without checking with the responsibe ministers, then the paper is incompetently edited.

If they did ask, and the ministers answered truthfully, then The Moncton Times lied to us.

If the ministers didn't tell the truth, then the  New Brunswick press has an obligation to publicize who lied about what.

Frankly, even if they lied, a cub reporter for a high school newspaper should know that a local district simply does not have the power to allot money on such a scale. Whatever their faults, nobody at even the Moncton Times could have been so stupid as to believe  it had such power. Any way you look at it, The Moncton Times and Transcript lied.

Apparently, it lied on another point, too. It said that the superintendant had decided not to go the the parents' protest (which represented less than one percent of the parents. That certainly gives the impression that they asked her, and she told them she had "decided" not to attend. (Of course, it could be that The Times editors and reporters are mind readers - but I doubt it.)

That's lying. That's outright, bare-faced lying. In good newspapers, people get fired for that.

The very least The Moncton Times can do is to  apologize for its vicious and vile editorials about education over the past year or so. It apologize for acting as a propganda sheet for Atlantic Institute of Marketing Studies so AIMS can do so much damage with its long discredited notions of standarized testing and ranking.

It seems to me The Times has also said that the teachers' union is too strong. Really? If they're so powerful, why have they never said a word in defence of their own members. So far as I've been able to tell, the teachers' union has all the power and courage of a kitten with a tummy ache.

Why haven't other "leaders" in this community defended the schools? Thousands must have realized that what The Moncton Times was doing was lying and scurrilous. But not a peep. Is Karen Brnscombe the only person in this city with brains, integrity and courage?

Boy, I feel like writing a letter to the ownership of The Times, telling them what a lying rag it is.
But they would probably feel flattered, and give all that wretched crowd a raise.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Just thinkin'

The Moncton Times report on the conomic summit quote John Irving at langth. Is he, by any chance, related to the owners and all New Brunswick's newspapers? Does he have any connection with the Atllantic Institute of Market Studies?  If so, wouldn't an enthical newspaper mention that?  How many of the businessmen at the summit were directlly or indirectly employed by him?

Nice to see the universitiy presidents there in strength. Thay had better be. The job of a university president is actually not to lead the university anywhere. The President's job is to kiss up to rich people by doing what they want them to do, and giving out honorary degrees. A university president is essentially a fund raiser. Very safe choice to invite to a summit that is really a scam.

Actually, they could have invited most of tne New Brunswick clergy, too. I  can't remember the last time any one of them suggested that the behaviour of big business in this province is often immoral.

Notice the prominent mention made of business having a direct role  in the schools, and particularly in curriculum.  (They'll call it "partnerships") If you're a professor of education, you know that is dangerous to education, will inflict lasting damage on the childfren and the schools. Professors of useless subjects, like History, Language, Literature, Sociology, psychology and otthers know that there days will be numbered. But they son't dare go public about it. If they did dare to, they would get called into the President's office for a chat.

Business wants the schools not to train children for life, but to train them mostly for low level jobs as obedient clerks. And they want a piece of the education budget to do ti, something for profit.
 That accounts for the rapid decline in the quality of American education, and dreadful state of education iin colonies run by American business. Haiti springs to mind.

Don't expect the Home and School or the Parent School committees to lift a finger. They're on the side of the rich.  Sometimes they're that way because they love thre rich. Sometimes, more commonly, I suspect, it's becase they're too scared to have any independent principles.

Don't expect your neighbours to lift a finger. New Brunswickers haven't dared to speak against their economic bosses for generations. They know what's going on. They know this is going to harm their children. Either they're too scared to speak. Or they just don't give a damn.

We should see the final report soon. It shouldn't take long to write a report based on breathless five minute group reports.  Anyway, As we know from the statements of Ganong and Thibaudeau a week ago, the report was probably written even before the invitations were sent.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Moncton Times is True to Form - only more childish.

First class in journalism 101  - news and opinion are quite different from each other, and should never be mixed. News is for factual reports, especially on the front page. Opinions are reserved for the editorial page, for letters to the editor, and for columnists. Opinions are always displayed in such a way that it is obvious they are opinon and not statenments of fact. News tells what happened. Whether what happend was good or bad is for the opinion sectins. Now read the the front page of The Moncton Times for Thusrsday, Dec. 2.

Economic Summit a Success

That's an opinion, not news. And don't blame a reporter for it. Headlines are written by editors. It is not possible that an editor, even one desperate enough to work for the press in this province, would be ignorant of the basic rule of separation of fact and opinion. This is the deliberate (and quite unethical) use of a newspaper to spread propaganda.

The editorial praises Bernard Lord for saying this is not the time to raise taxes.  Somehow, that kiss kiss seems to contradoict that part of the front page story which said there was great interest in a raise of the HST. (Hint - the T in HST means Tax.) The HST is a favourite tax of the rich and corporations because it hits the poor and the miiddle class far less than the riich. "Culling sacred cows" means cutting services. Wage freezes are also a tax because the freezee loses money for a year while the cost of living still rises.

As for culling sacred cows, the sacred cows of services, gifts, favours and  loans (incentives) to large corporation will not be among those culled. In fact, we'll be lucky even to hear about them.

The summiteers also announced  plans to streamline (cut) government services, and improve our education (introduce more measures that have been tried and have failed for thirty years in the US.)  It also means letting some of the summiteers get their fingers into the education budget for private profit.

John Irving pronounced that the whole focus should be on being competitive. That will make us floursih.

Bullshit.

Haiti's industries from factory farming to clothing manufacture have been among the most competitive in the world. They have been for close to a century. But I have never seen Haitians living it up and jumping for joy,not even before the earthquake. Congo's mining is  highly competitive on the world market and  has produced substantial fortunes for Canadian mining compaanies. But it has produced nothing but poverty and early death for the Congolese.

Yes, we do need to develop industry. But it cannot be our only focus. That's why we don't need people like John Irving telling us what is economically good for us.  Mr. Irving, of all people, should know that our business has flourished. But it has made Mr. Irving wealthy - not most of the rest of us.

Anyway, a bunch of people - we sttill don't know who, and we don't know how they were chosen - met to solve all the province's problems. They did in two days flat.  They did it with little discussion groups, each giving a five minute report. They did what a government normally does - except they didn't bother to get elected by us. Why should they? That really sums up the whole history of New Brunswick as a province that has had more than its share of robber barons.

Hey, all you folks at The Times and at the summit, this whole shmeer isn't  just bad journalism, naked self-interest, and  zero ethics. It's bloody childish.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Day One of the great NB summit meeting.

Things are moving quickly at the summit. The main speaker has already emphasized what I said would be the first point. There must be no tax increases for the rich or for corporations. There will be tax increases for the middle class. (Gee. Just the same as those wise policies of George Bush who made the US such an economic success.) Watch for the soon-to-come editorial that will change uts mind and say some taxes should be raised. Yours.

What the speaker did not say is there will also be a tax increase for the poor. The sales tax will go up. Rich people and corporation love that kind of tax because, though it inflicts real suffering and sacrifice on the poor, it means nothing much to the rich because they have piles of money left over. We are all going to get suckered to pay for the blunders of the wealthy and big business.

Meanwhile, an interesting story slipped onto the New Page of the Times. It must have happened when the editors looked away. It shows that the rich of Canada have been getting wildly richer for at least 20 years, while all the rest of us are following behind. The gaps between rich and poor in Canada and in the US are getting so great they are the widest they have ever been in the history of both countries. Tens of millions are unemployed and living below the poverty line in our two countries. Meanwhile, corporations and the wealthy are continuing to make huge gains. I sometimes wonder whether the editor reads the news page.  Probably not. Usuallly it is a page not worth reading.

Private business is great at what it is designed to do, make profits for itself. What it cannot do, what it has failed to do for centuries, is to distribute that wealth fairly throughout the whole society. The whole world is on the edge of paying a terrible price for that. The reality is that we are not all in this together. The rich, even in recession, are getting richer. Their children are not going cold and hungry. Their private schools are not dangerous becuase of lack of maintenance and adequate funding. Now New Brunwicks poor are going to get poorer so othe rich can maintain the style they are used to.

Meanwhile, the people who have already proven for over a century that they cannot plan an economy and cannot disttribute wealth fairly are now gathered to advise us all on how to plan ours.

And they have the hutzpah to call this swarming of billionaires, millionaires and dead light bulbs as representative of the whole province.

Okay - all at this summit who are poor or even lower middle class, or fishermen, or farmers, please stand up.

And we still have not been told by the super reporters of The Times exactly who is at this summit and how all these people were chosen. We know they were invited. We haven├Ęt been told who invited them, or why those people and not others were invited.

The only news worth buying that paper for is on the page that tells you which celebrity nobody ever heard of is having a birthday today.

The Cowardice, Slime and Ass-kissing of the The Moncton Times Editorial Staff

The editorial in today's (December 1) Moncton Times is beneath contempt.

School District Two Superintendant Angela Branscombe has won a national award.as one of the hundred most powerful women in Canada. That an astonishing achievement for a person who is the superintendant of a relatively small and poor school district in the middle of nowhere.But not so to the ignorant and subservient editors of the most wretched newspaper I have ever seen.

Instead, the editorial writer (who seems to know as little about education as he does about civilized manners)  publicly accuses her of incompetence in the case of Moncton High. These are the same editors who decided some weeks ago that the big story of the day was a demonstration of unhappy parents of MHS students and of neighbouring schools affected by the MHS closure. In fact, something fewer than one percent of all the eligible parents even bothered to show up. There was no story. No ethical newspaper would have bothered with anything so trivial. The Moncton Times played it up, anyway. As journalists, the editors knew that to most readers, the message would not be the real one that there was almost no protest. The message would be that there is something wrong with District Two.

The editorial was also careful not to blame any provincial government or their education ministers. That is surely odd. After all, as the editorial says, reports on the school have shown its condition for years - along with many other neglected schools across New Brunswick.

But asuperintendant has no magic wand to make money appear. Governments do that. And no New Brunswick government in recent memory has cared a damn about giving the schools  enough money even for routine office supplies. The had millions for a hockey rink. But nothing for schools. The editorial writer knows that. But he or she or it put the blame the superintendant in order to cover the irresponsible asses in Fredericton of both parties who allowed this crisis to develop. They also want to create a sense that the schools are in crisis. That makes it easier for AIMS to talk us into a gradual privatization of education. And the owners of The Times would probably like that.

Parents and students in Moncton should be damn grateful they have a superintendant who has the courage and wisdom to protect students against what could have become a real disaster. She deserves our thanks and respect. She certainly does not deserve the rantings of a guttersnipe.

What a disgusting lying, petty and ignorant editorial. Forget about impressing the world with a new hockey rink or a CFL team. Any visitor catching a glimpse of The Moncton Times will immiediately realize that this is Hicksville.

Oh - about the witty editorial cartoon on the same page....  An old friend of mine is Terry mosher, who is arguably the best editorial cartoonist in Canada.  Terry is a good artist. So is The Times cartoonist. The difference between them, though, is as wide and deep as Grand Canyon. Terry has never kissed any ass. And he has the guts to criticize even thenewspaper owners.

Tell you what, kid, you do a few cartoons critical of the owners and editors of  The Moncton Times. Then we can talk.